Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jacksons, Romans, Countrymen.. Lend Me Your Ears!!

Phillip Graham said that journalism is the first draft of history. He was correct as most historians use newspapers as the starting point for the analysis of the past. I’ve watched with interest the coverage of the events in Iran, the debate over health care and the unexpected death of Michael Jackson. I understand that Michael Jackson was, and will always be a cultural phenomenon and icon. I understand the importance of pop culture as it relates to our larger world, but I can’t help but think that the media has missed an opportunity to seize on the public’s renewed interest in current events in failing to spoon feed a little analysis to the general public of two events that will very probably shape all of our lives for a long time. And what of the historians twenty years from now. Where will they start in their analysis of the events of our time? Will the first draft of those historical events come from blogs and tabloid television? Or will the dearth of reporting of the major events that are sure to affect our legacy be viewed as the very reason for our decline as a people and become the main point of analysis for historians? One cannot be sure until it is written. We do know that the Roman Civilization devolved into a republic of the ignorant. We also know that they failed. George Santayana said that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I sincerely hope that our country learns from the history of other great civilizations and pays close attention. We cannot all become pop culture savants awash in a sea of political ignorance lest we fall as the Romans did.


Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer Break!

As a boy, I looked forward each year to the extravagance of summer. I would sit in class and mark time while my mind wandered the trails and streams of my grandmothers home, rode my bicycle up and down my county road and fished the lakes and ponds of my youth. For over twenty years, my body and mind was accustomed to the mid-year break that is summer and even though my school days are long gone, I still have a twinge of that lustful urge to squander an afternoon in the movie theater while the asphalt boils under the summer sun. We swear to ourselves that we will not get old, that we will not become our parents and then it happens. We wake up one June and forget that this month used to be one of rest, reflection and even fun.

Not me, not this year. It has been a long six months for Karla and I and we are out of here for a week. Karla and I decided long ago that life is too short to work twelve hour days and never take the time to enjoy the fruits of our labor. I encourage all of you to take the time this summer to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Be kind to yourselves and celebrate the very good things that have happened to you over the past six months. Karla and I are off to Milwaukee to enjoy some good live music, baseball games, Lake Michigan and some of the very best people the planet has to offer. The bell has rung folks and its time for recess! I'll see you all from Milwaukee!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Reflections on a week past.

I look forward to the week ahead because it isn’t as full as the previous one. I have a birthday Tuesday, but this one doesn’t feel as good as last year’s. Last year I was preparing to go to Baltimore, but this year I have no such plans. Perhaps next year. We are headed to Milwaukee next month, a trip that we missed last year so it isn’t as if Karla and I won’t have a vacation this summer. We have a trial to finish first and then it is out to Milwaukee, the land of lakes, concerts, beer, bratwurst and most importantly, Austins. A week in Milwaukee is as good as two weeks almost anywhere else. Karla and I come back bloated, hung-over, tired and full of memories and smiles which last us until the end of the year. Good people those Austins.

I haven’t had as much time as I like to keep up with the news this week as it is almost always entertaining. I have watched with some interest this swine flu business and I marvel at both the panic that folks can whip themselves into and the importance the executive branch thinks it has in these matters. The media thought that Joe Biden’s comments about staying home during the swine flu “pandemic” would turn us into a nation of shut ins. They shouldn’t have worried, I don’t think anyone listens to Joe Biden very much. I think he needs to go to Dick Cheney’s “undisclosed location” and wait it out there, far away from the news cameras that he loves to make a fool of himself in front of. I did find it amusing that President Obama tried to explain the economic crisis to each of us as if we were the intelligent populace that we strive to be, then treated us as first graders minutes later when he told us, with all manner of seriousness, that to prevent the spread of disease, we should cover our mouths when we cough and wash our hands a lot. Good advice Mr. President. My first grade teacher Ms. Taylor would be so proud.

I’ve been kind of down this week because in the midst of the insanity, David Poole, a man I admired and respected, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 50. David covered NASCAR for the Charlotte Observer for twenty years and also hosted a NASCAR call in show on Sirius Satellite Radio. I listened every morning and was informed and entertained without fail. He and I would correspond by email on occasion and had some pretty spirited exchanges about NASCAR rules, the history of the sport and the economic viability of its future. He was a historian at heart and wrote a fantastic book about the late Tim Richmond. I enjoyed corresponding with him, listening to his opinions and laughing like hell at his outlook on life. The morning drive will never be the same and my email box will always be a little less full.

I had the pleasure of speaking to a few University students this week about the law and lawyering on Thursday. It wasn’t as much a speech as it was a discussion. I went out and told them who I was and what I did for a living and gave them a few war stories and then opened the floor up to questions. I was surprised to receive questions at such a rapid pace and in such a quantity that there wasn’t time to answer them all. As I listened to their questions, it was very easy to see myself in those chairs. They are now right where I was fifteen years ago. Full of optimism, excitement and terror at what I thought lay ahead. I explained that ours is a stressful profession and that the dull and earnest ones die young. I told them that they should laugh everyday, even if they don’t feel it appropriate. I told them to know the law without error, have impeccable ethics and be a ham, at all costs. I told them to be the jokesters in a world of straight men and women and most importantly, be remembered.

Finally, I heard late Thursday that Justice Souter will retire this summer from the United States Supreme Court. I have enjoyed his theory of jurisprudence over the years, even more so in the past five. He is not a majority writer as much as a Ginsberg or Scalia, but has a mind that I admire. I guess we’ll get to see President Obama’s theory of Legal Pragmatism much earlier on the Supreme Court than any of us expected. I will be interested to watch how a “result oriented” nominee will interact with a majority of theorists. I think Justice Scalia is already popping Tums.

I hope that all of you have a pleasant and productive week and have a chance to drink a few of your favorite Mexican Beers on Cinco De Mayo.

Take care, be well and do good work.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dark, Rainy Mornings Inspire Dark Prose

I've spent the morning writing a short story that was totally unexpected. I can’t explain what happened, but every time I thought I was at an end, I wrote another paragraph. I started at “I was preoccupied with death at ten. I shot a rabbit in my grandmother’s backyard. The shot only wounded him. Although his eyes were exactly the same as moments before, I noticed a thin, white border around his chocolate brown iris that betrayed the calm of his wounded body. When I killed him, his eyes died before his body and he seemed at peace. I wounded him because I wanted to know what it was like to kill something. I killed him to end his suffering. The wounding sickened me, the killing empowered me. I’ve spent the rest of my life in pursuit of reconciliation.”

I developed those opening lines into the darkest and most extraordinary story I’ve ever written.

I've made no secret that I've worked steadily on a book for months now. The process has been fun because I can pretend to be an evil, sadistic bastard without actually becoming one.

Stay tuned.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Those Who Make Trouble in Their Own House will Inherit the Wind

I was reflecting this week about a time when a law school buddy and I were in law school and were in a little law office in Oklahoma City learning how to do a property record search at 5th and Kerr Street, just down the street from the Oklahoma County Courthouse. Kerr street is one way and so we had to go up a couple of blocks to Harvey street to get back on the street the right way to get a parking place. We hit Harvey at 7:45 AM and drove west to fifth street to make the turn south. A little over an hour later, we heard the explosion and felt the concussion. I have never told that to a soul, not even KJ. My friend and I made a pact that we wouldn't tell our family how close we were to the explosion. He had a new wife, and KJ and I were newly married and I didn't want to worry her or my family, but we were too damn close. That was ten years ago today and to this day, I can still remember how that explosion sounded and what it felt like and I will probably remember it until the day I die.

I wrote the preceding paragraph a few years ago and it seemed appropriate this week to add it to this blog. Although it is a different year, the sentiment is still the same and the memories are just as vivid.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Fancy Funky Fandango

Someone reminded me that I will be 38 years old this year. That same someone told me that I don’t act that old. I thanked her for the compliment and as I walked away I had a chance to think about what she’d said. She hadn’t said that I didn’t LOOK 38 years old, but that I didn’t act like it. I am still fatuously grateful for the compliment, even if it wasn’t the one I thought she gave me. As a side note, she later explained that she meant that I don’t seem that old and I suppose that could include my actions as well as my looks. For the record, I don’t feel 38 years old, and I sure as hell don’t act like it. I think I am ready to let my twenties go though. They were very good to me, but I look forward to bigger and better things in the coming years. Age is just a number anyway. You are only as old as you think you are and while I wanted to be a grown up, even as a kid, I never wanted to get old. That feeling is not shared by my contemporaries.

I have friends and other folks I know that approach me every few weeks, their hands clasped together in a double fist so tight their knuckles are white while they wear an expression of urgency and expectation on their faces. They can’t wait to tell me what their new malady is. Lord, its leper colony out there. One guy insists on telling me the frequency with which his erection flags and his concern that he has a low sperm count. He asked me if this had ever happened to me (he is 3 years younger than I). I told him that sperm count and erections are completely unrelated and that my payload, and the delivery system (everything from the ICBM to the Minuteman), have always worked just fine. I thought he was going to have a heart attack when I told him this. In fact, a week later he came to me and said that he thought he was having chest pains and went to the hospital where they told him he had gas, gave him some pepto and sent him home. Another guy thought his colon was blocked because he had been constipated for three days. Another colleague of mine can hear about a rare disease on television which affects only the Australian Bushmen and within a week he will have developed symptoms which mimic with precision the Australian Bushmen disease, this despite the fact that he is neither Australian nor a Bushman. I am convinced that when he does die, his last words will be “See, I told you so”.

The point of all this is my confusion at these people’s disappointment when they found out that nothing is wrong with them. I am convinced that it isn’t age that is killing people, it is the stress on these people from worrying about what is going to kill them. To that end, here are a few tricks I have developed to combat stress.

(1.) Dance.. I don’t mean the formal dancing you’ve seen taught in college nor even the rhythmic shaking that one would see a club. No no, I am talking about MY dance, which I am prone to bust out at any time. Here is how it is done: Step 1: Squat down so that the top half of your body is parallel to ground and your rear end is stuck out and slightly up, your legs should be bent at the knees (unless of course you’ve figured out some other way to get into this position without doing so). Step 2. Your arms should be slightly bent at the elbows (unless of course you have unhealed compound fractures and then you may bend your arms at any point you choose) Step 3. The music should now start in your head, audible music is acceptable, but is not nearly as much fun. Step 4. Ok, start with you legs, straighten and then re-bend first your right leg and then your left leg so that your body is gently rocking from side to side, simultaneously work your butt up and down, continue while at the same time punching the air first with you left hand and then your right hand at the end of every third punch, do a windmill with alternating arms and alternating directions, continue.. at the same time, bob your head from front to back, left to right and every 4th revolution stick out your tongue and auto-rotate your head like the helicopter pilots do. Finally, if you’re not too dizzy by this point, spin your entire body around every 60 seconds, pause and then place each hand on your knees and do the “crossover” three times. Repeat as necessary. I call this dance the Fancy Funky Fandango. You get extra points if you do it in a set of Kocha Shells and a loin cloth.

(2) Sing. But don’t just sing a song, just snippets of random lyrics to the tune of an entirely unrelated song. For example combine Gavin DeGraw’s “I’m In Love With a Girl”, The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” and Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” to form “I’m in love with a girl in White Satin, Long legs and burgandy lips.” Sing it to the tune of 2 Pac’s “California Love” just for fun.

And finally,

(3) Exercise. I don’t do this as often as I should. Just for fun, moonwalk around the track. Or play a prank. My favorite is to put olive oil on the weight bars.

So there you have it, my tips for combating stress. We all need to laugh a little and at times, we need to laugh a lot, even at ourselves. Now get out there and have some fun!

Take care, be well and do good work.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Whoa, You Don't Know The Shape I'm In..

Its been awhile since I’ve posted anything, a product of a complicated professional life and illness in my personal life. Things were fine until I came back from a few days of R&R. I didn’t feel sick, just a little lethargic. I had a dull pain behind one of my eyes and a general feeling of listlessness. A short time later my throat began to hurt. I’ll spare you dear readers the details, but the pressure finally ended this week when a small placenta came out of my face along with part of my brain. I don’t think it was anything important, but I can’t seem to remember my primary colors anymore and simple arithmetic is a chore. I also can’t talk good no more. I’ve got a lot of things saved up from my three week hiatus, but I’ll ease into it.. Stay tuned gentle readers.

Take care, be well and do good work.


P.S. My thanks to The Great Levon Helm and The Band for the title of this blog.